COPING WITH TECH OVERLOAD
Three years into being a business owner, Becky Davis knew she needed to break the hold technology had on her.
Davis, a marketing and management consultant to other small business owners, was so immersed in emails, texts and social media that she was getting only four or five hours of sleep a night and her husband said he felt invisible. It also hurt her productivity — she’d get distracted reading people’s posts and realize she’d lost two hours of work time.
“If you don’t set some rules, guidelines and put some technology boundaries in place on using your phone, tablet or computer, they will run your life and can very well ruin your life,” said Davis, who’s based in Douglasville, Ga.
Many small business owners in tech overload are putting limits on how much time they spend on evergrowing modes of communication.
For some, the antidote is more technology, such as apps or programs that filter e-mails.
Others go low-tech, simply turning their devices off. Some tell clients they’re just not available to answer e-mails and texts at night and on weekends.
Davis now schedules time for social media posting and leaves her computer in another room at night. When she’s out to dinner with her husband, she doesn’t check e-mail.
For small business owners passionate about their companies, their dedication makes it hard to say no to the e-mail or text that arrives at 10 p.m. The tipping point for many has been the explosion of social media sites that have some owners reading hundreds of posts each day, said Patricia Greene, an entrepreneurship professor at Babson College.
“There are so many streams to manage,” she said.
Justine Pattantyus has turned off most notifications, including e-mail and Facebook alerts. The constant interruptions prevented her from focusing on doing work for the clients of her management consulting business.
“How much time I was losing to responding constantly to those outside influences!” said Pattantyus, owner of Spark Life International.
Pattantyus sets other limits. She lives in Lisbon, Portugal, but her clients are five to eight hours behind her in the U.S. If she has clients on Pacific time, they’re in the early part of their work day as Pattantyus nears the end of hers. She shuts her computer down at 7 p.m. her time. Clients know that’s the rule when they sign on with her.
Aaron Norris said he’s slowly gotten rid of his laptop at home for work after finding he was reading emails at 5:30 a.m. and spending time in the evening sorting through emails that he estimates were 80 percent spam.
Norris, a vice president at his family’s Riverside, Calif.-based real estate business, The Norris Group, also has cut back on time Aaron Norris says it’s a struggle to let go of his electronic devices – and to resist the temptation to read work e-mail – during his time off. Chris Carlson, The Associated Press spent on e-mail at work and no longer tries to read every social media channel.
“There has to be some peace or I just feel frayed by the end of the day,” he said.
Josh Nolan began putting a boundary between work and personal life — his own and his staffers’ — about three years after his website design company, Bold Array, was founded. He was working more than 100 hours a week as he and his staff of five tried to keep up with clients’ questions, requests, e-mails and texts.
“Things were getting a little difficult to manage,” said Nolan, whose company is based in Costa Mesa, Calif..
His solution: Clients are told Nolan will answer emails, phone calls and have meetings between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. He’ll answer texts and e-mails after 10 p.m. or the next day, keeping the evenings clear. Weekend work is billed at a higher rate.
“Once we started setting those limits and communicating expectations, it helped with company morale and not just going insane with the amount of work,” he said. Small-business owners shared some of their tips: TECHNOLOGY TIPS •Set a batch e-mail program, which holds incoming mail until you’re ready to look at it so you’re not reading in dribs and drabs all day, interrupting other tasks. •Use messaging programs like Slack that allow groups of people to communicate and share documents, reducing the number of e-mails and texts that must be read. • Carry two cellphones, one for business and one for personal use •Turn off notifications. • Don’t put your cellphone number on your website or social media account. LIFESTYLE TIPS: •Shut off your phone or leave it behind when you go out for the evening. At home, set it and your computer in another room. • Set a schedule for when you’ll read texts, e-mail and social media posts and respond to them. Let clients and employees know. If you’re willing to be reached in an emergency, provide guidelines about what qualifies.